- - Thursday, April 19, 2012

KAMPALA, UGANDA — African nations have redoubled their resolve to capture Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony in the wake of the viral online documentary highlighting his rebel group’s atrocities.

The African Union has started a troop surge to end the Lord's Resistance Army’s 25-year war on civilians in East and Central Africa, weeks after the video “Kony 2012” attracted more than 100 million viewers on the Internet.

The force includes an estimated 5,000 soldiers from Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, along with communications and logistic support from the United States, and civilian escorts from the U.N.

A regional task force will be headquartered in Yambio, South Sudan, and will allow for free movement of troops across borders.

Kony and his estimated 500 fighters, many of them abducted children, are thought to be hiding in the dense jungle border region of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Ugandan military officials believe Kony himself is inside the Central African Republic, based on interviews with Lord's Resistance Army defectors.

Kony started his campaign of terror in northern Uganda. From 1987 to 2006, 20,000 Ugandan children were abducted and nearly 2 million people were displaced in the conflict.

Torture, hacking off limbs and sex slavery have been widely reported.

Eventually repelled by Ugandan forces, Kony and his troops fled from what is now South Sudan to the Central African Republic and Congo over an area about the size of California.

Kony and several other Lord's Resistance Army leaders, whose stated aim is to establish a religious state based on the Ten Commandments, are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

The new effort to capture Kony seeks to improve on an operation launched in 2008 by Congo, southern Sudan and Uganda with U.S. intelligence and logistical support. That campaign centered on Garamba National Park in northeastern Congo, where Kony was suspected to be hiding.

But poor coordination, a shortage of ground troops and a lack of sustained air power across the vast dense jungle doomed the mission to failure and even led to a spike in civilian murders and abductees by the Lord's Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

In October, the Obama administration sent 100 special forces troop, up from 17 during the initial campaign, to help with information-sharing, coordination and strategy, but not combat operations.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has contributed $5 million to boost telephone coverage in the region, and the U.S. has donated $17 million for helicopter and fixed-wing logistical transport – seen as vital to success considering the area’s extremely poor road network.

Following the release of “Kony 2012,” the European Union announced it was donating $12 million in humanitarian assistance, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has asked the U.S. government for additional aircraft support.